Monday, September 7, 2009

Review: Justice League: Cry For Justice #3

Justice League: Cry For Justice #3 (of 7)

Writer: James Robinson
Artist: Mauro Cascioli
DC
Released: September 2, 2009






Three issues. Unless something is so horribly atrocious, three issues is generally how many I will buy into a new series before I make a final decision as to whether I will continue to follow it or not. This mini-series has reached that point, and based on this issue, I can't see myself purchasing another in the series. The irony is that this issue is not an entire mess, and has some good moments. The problem is that the weak points are ones that have lingered since issue #1, and they are only getting worse.

The series has seemed to lack any sense of logic to it, putting the heroes of this rebel band of Justice Leaguers in moments that demonstrate Robinson's lack of handle on these characters, and that strain the parameters of the reader's suspension of disbelief. For starters, this issue begins in Gotham, in the aftermath of a capes-on-capes street fight. This was a fight that was not shown on-panel, firstly, but from the looks of the heroes and villains on display, one can imagine this street brawl went down as a flurry of primary colors, smashed parked cars, indented curbs, and bent street lights; in short, the typical superhero fisticuffs that seem to always take place in the center of a busy downtown. Remarkably, our 'heroes' stand around afterwards amongst the strewn bodies of the vanquished and the urban debris of battle, dressed in full costume, having a chat. No Gotham police show up, no other heroes from the officially sanctioned JLA show up, and there apparently don't seem to be any civilian pedestrians on the street, at night, in Gotham. So, our protagonists have a bit of a chat, in which Green Arrow and The Atom spout off a few lame jokes that would be embarrassing coming out of the mouth of a frat-boy, let alone heroes of their caliber. Supergirl shows up and immediately turns the waterworks on, as well as the dumb-blonde routine. Their is nothing to like in this scene, and the only thing serviced is the further undermining of these characters.

Green Arrow Oliver Queen comes across poorly in this issue on two fronts. Firstly, the aforementioned juvenile remarks he makes are inappropriately timed and uncharacteristically puerile. The character of Oliver Queen has always been portrayed with a slight air of smug sarcasm, but generally with more intelligence and a healthy dose of genuine passion and humor. This junior-high level dialogue he is given here undermines his character, turning Queen from the leftist-hero of liberty and fairness, into that guy at the party who slobbers on the roach and tries to high-five everyone after every one-liner, not noticing the collective eye-rolls and groans from the gallery. Worst of all, it breaks the cardinal sin of just not being funny. At least it could be forgiven if it elicited any giggle, guffaw, or chuckle, but lines about penis size and stomach gas are strained and unbelievably misguided.

Secondly, one wonders what happened to the staunch and hardcore political passion of Mr. Queen. The leftist crusader of civil liberties and individual freedom participates here in the outright torture of a captured foe. Of course, he does remark on this, but does so with such listlessness, such lack of spine, and with a real disturbing quality of naivete that it lends no power to the point being made. He acquiesces so quickly and with such frailty to Green Lantern Hal Jordan, that the moment passes weakly, and what should be a central theme to this arc, is treated as a simplistic notion to be brushed aside like dirt on one's shoulder. Ollie has gone head to head in heated political debate with many a JLA-er in the past, so why he now sets aside that vitriol is bizarre and disappointing.

As alluded to earlier, Supergirl fairs no better, treated as a meek little girl and a sexual object in the span of just two pages. Her entrance at the end of issue #2 portrays her as an illiterate, and her immediate break into tears to start issue #3 shows her as the wilting flower. Throw in a lame sexist remark by The Atom Ray Palmer that boils her down to jailbait, and Kara is completely decimated in very short order. This is her only scene so far this series and she comes across as ignorant, naive, and frail.

The title of this issue is "The Villain" and it serves to formally introduce us to the man pulling the strings of all this orchestrated mayhem, Prometheus. In his afterword, Robinson writes of his want to return this now C-list villain back to his original reviled and feared form, and he does a fairly decent job of establishing Prometheus as a very formidable, ruthless, and, most importantly, very competent adversary. Originally created by writer Grant Morrison in the pages of his mid-90's JLA run, Prometheus is the anti-Batman, a child left orphaned by violence who spends his formative years training, and who now takes his pain and aggression out on society as a whole. In the intervening years, however, the character had become something of a joke, and DC has been making a dedicated effort to put the shine back on him. This issue makes a strong case. Unfortunately, the character is saddled with one of the worst costumes; a sad aubergine-and-gold affair that looks like a post-apocalyptic football uniform from a world where the underground radio is dominated by late 1970's disco. All that is missing are the roller skates.

The most unfortunate part of this whole issue comes in this afterword, where Robinson lavishes praise on Mr. Morrison, specifically on his now classic run on the Justice League. Recently, DC has begun releasing Morrison's JLA in it's entirety in deluxe hardcover editions. They are superb and serve as a reminder of what the Justice League is supposed to be, simply, The Worlds Greatest Heroes: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash, Green Lantern, and the ever-present anchor Martian Manhunter. Robinson's encomium spotlights how anything less than this will always feel slight, and shows himself to be admittedly not a strong enough writer to pull off the improbable by upending that feeling. This issue is evidence of that.
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